DB Schenker testing iHub for general cargo logistics in Berlin

Joint research project to investigate the use of electric trucks for freight forwarding services in the city

DB Schenker testing iHub for general cargo logistics in Berlin

At a lecture event, DB Schenker, together with everyone involved in Berlin, presented a project to investigate the integration of electric trucks into the fleets of logistics service providers. Although forklift trucks or industrial transport vehicles are usually equipped with an electric drive in today’s logistics centers, electric vehicles are barely used in long-haul and general cargo logistics.

The iHub project aims to show how an IT-based system can efficiently control truck fleets consisting of diesel-powered and electric vehicles. DB Schenker cooperates with Framo, a manufacturer of electric trucks in Saxony, as well as with the software company PTV from Karlsruhe, the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI in Dresden and the Institute for Post-Fossil Logistics in Münster. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Electromobility means a special challenge for general cargo logistics: It is important for the industry to be fast, on time and reliable. Electric vehicles have an apparent disadvantage compared to diesel-powered trucks due to their need to recharge, but the advantage of energy consumption halved compared to a diesel engine.

The integration of electric trucks into the vehicle fleets of logistics service providers therefore requires an intelligent controller that compensates for this and only allocates transport orders to an electric truck by means of dynamic route planning if it can handle the order with the same reliability as a diesel truck. This control is the main task of the iHub system to be developed. The experiences that courier and parcel service providers make with small electric vehicles or sprinters can hardly be transferred to the logistics industry.

The DB Schenker office in Berlin offered to test it because it is close to the city center – and within reach of e-mobile trucks. In the future, three electric trucks with a gross vehicle weight of up to 18 tonnes are to be driven there. The software calculates exactly which routes they use, so they do not have to spend a lot of time charging on the route. For efficient use of the battery, their operating data is recorded online and recommendations for action derived from it.